Back in action

She’s been away from the Southeastern Delaware Artists’ Studio Tour (SEDAST) for a year or two, but Allene Martinez has returned this year, and if tour participants can find her, they’ll find a gem.
Special to the Coastal Point • SAM HARVEY: Local artist Allene Martinez stands in her home studio with a landscape painting she created.Special to the Coastal Point • SAM HARVEY: Local artist Allene Martinez stands in her home studio with a landscape painting she created.
This year’s SEDAST, the 11th annual, provides a self-guided tour of 16 studios, all within a mile of Route 26 (between Dagsboro to Bethany Beach). Like many of the artists on the tour, Martinez’s studio is located at her house — and is not at all easy to find.

The local art scene is apparently trying to hide its light under a bushel, but at least for two days — Friday, Nov. 25, and Saturday, Nov. 26 — art lovers will get a little glimpse.

Just watch for the orange and yellow balloons, and keep a trusty navigator handy with the SEDAST map.

The Martinez home (in Blackwater Village, west of Clarksville) is nestled way, way back in the forest. It’s a peaceful setting, and windows in Martinez’s second-floor studio look out into the trees — perfect for a painter who so obviously draws her inspirations from nature’s beauty.

“I paint what I like,” she said. “What gives me joy. If other people decide they like it, that’s just a bonus.” Most of her paintings derive from photographs she’s taken in her travels, Martinez explained.

The canvases around her studio depict scenes from the Snake River and the Grand Tetons (both in Wyoming) — her husband, Jaime, detailed their tour itinerary for that particular junket, starting in South Dakota and winding through Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Colorado.

In fact, some of those photographs she’d taken from a raft, right in the middle of the Snake River, Martinez pointed out. And she’s been working on an interesting variation with that subject.

“The photo showed cloudy skies, so I thought, ‘Why not try something in black and white?’” she asked. She’s created two paintings using that technique.

Other paintings show Irish ports and hillsides — but Martinez said she was working on some local scenes, too. Gardens seem very popular — “I can hardly keep any of those,” she said, perhaps a bit wistfully.

There’s a wetlands scene, on masonite (a dense, compressed fiberboard). She’s said she’d taken a workshop from an instructor who favored Masonite, and done a few using that backdrop, but prefers stretched canvas.

And there on the easel, as yet unframed, a local scene — a riverbank on a sunny summer day, with reflections on the water.

“I’ve just finished this one, and I’m quite pleased with it,” Martinez admitted.

The Martinezes moved to Blackwater Village in 1990 (Jaime had purchased the land back in 1982).

“I felt very comfortable here,” she remembered.

And she said she felt blessed, in that she didn’t have to paint for money — she and her husband managed a quietly comfortable retirement without any additional income from her artwork.

A mother of five, Martinez said she’d actually worked as a registered nurse for most of her life.

She’s one of the sizable minority of oil painters who use knives rather than brushes, and paints in a realistic style, with an impressionist influence. She said she still quite often dabbled in impressionism, but felt she’d “tightened up” since moving to Delaware.

Martinez studied realism in Buffalo, N.Y., under Hal English, and then at the Czymbalos School of Fine Art in her “mid-life,” late 1980s, while living in Staten Island, N.Y. (She also met Jaime during that period.)

Since moving to Delaware, she’s offered instruction at the Academy of Lifelong Learning (University of Delaware), in Lewes and at the Art League of Ocean City. Martinez is a member of several area art leagues, and a regular on the SEDAST.

As a tour participant, she joins her local colleagues in supporting Indian River School District (IRSD) art programs, through SEDAST’s “Art in the Hat” raffle. Every year, as part of the tour, every artist offers up one work of art, and the proceeds from the sale of those pieces go to the school district.

For a look at Martinez’s offering this year, “Sundown,” (or any of the other artists’ Art in the Hat offerings), visit the SEDAST Web site at or call (302) 539-4092.

This year’s event runs Friday, Nov. 25 and Saturday, Nov. 26, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both days.